When asked to write a piece about wild camping I was unsure whether to take it as a compliment or a slur. To many, it is a dirty word; something practised in the dark ages and akin to sleeping rough on the streets in our modern parlance. Personally, I think such folk need enlightenment and they need it quick. To feel the chorus of birdsong and sense the coming of dawn in a wild (or perhaps more urban) spot surrounded by nature and possibly a mate or two just has to be done. It won’t be long before you are making up excuses not to use a campsite or bunkhouse! I couldn’t imagine the great outdoors without the odd bivi and have bedded down in some quite weird and wonderful spots over the years! So, this anecdotal article will tell about a few of them and hopefully, convince the hardened car boot campers amongst you to occasionally ditch the twin air bed and shower facilities for the most budget and splendid of accommodation available, the wild camp. There is, you will be pleased to hear, no formal instruction or syllabus for learning its art. Right or wrong, correct or incorrect, are alien to the language of the wild camper. You will make mistakes; nights shivering wishing you hadn’t opted for the lightweight sleeping bag or picked a spot much favoured by the resident rodent population. But each morning waking to the serenity of a mountain alongside a remote tarn will deepen your appreciation and passion for the hills.
Make up the rules yourself; shall I bring a tent? Or a bivi bag? Gore-tex or one of those cheap and nasty orange bags, (they drip badly with condensation and look like a body bag but they do fit two! Just and probably best if you are pretty friendly otherwise it could be awkward!) or risk it and go with neither hoping for no rain, or be braver still and go solo relying on clothing, body fat (this helps if you’re podgy) and oodles of perseverance (read insanity!) The ultimate style, however, would have to be the Ray Mears build-an-amazing-shelter-out-of-twigs-and-heather-in-a-day. This is fun, takes forever but massively rewarding (see below for Mark and my adventure or contact us for our secrets on the DIY nest).
So, in no particular order, some memorable bivis of note:
Top of Snowdon
Not blessed with great bivi sites but a simple way up if you take the Miners track. Has the advantage of a café for a morning brew though the new station is still under construction. Has the unfortunate advantage of being probably the busiest night-time mountain in the UK as team after team of Three Peak Challengers head up through the night. My seemingly peaceful bivi literally metres below the top was interrupted at twenty minute intervals by shouts of get the camera out and we’ve made it lads, good effort! How inconsiderate!
Some random train station in Italy
This one doesn’t shine in my memory but is a note to self that there is a fine line between biving and full-on homeless antics. Having completely misread the timetable I found myself in the middle of nowhere with no more trains that night and it too late to get into a guesthouse. After much bench swapping and pretending to be warm enough outside I was left with a last resort to swallow my pride and go inside the rather small ticket office and bed down alongside the ubiquitous station homeless! It has to be said they were extremely welcoming and took me in as one of their own. They even offered me a swig of the Italian equivalent of Special Brew which I politely declined.
A classic. A good night out clubbing was followed by a choice of accommodation of either the car or the beach. The beach clearly won and we quickly settled down. I most say sand offers perfect cushioning; it moulds to your body shape and stays warm. So, I felt pretty snug and soon nodded off. Shortly after, we were woken by some character shouting Lads, in an hour you’re going to be floating in knee deep water Some crazy drug induced fool probably hallucinating was our considered reaction to his advice and after a quick look out to sea revealed no imminent tidal surge we promptly fell asleep again. Well, you all surely know the outcome but we were a little tipsy and the tide doesn’t half move in quickly up north!
The Bowderstone, Lakes
The night passed seemingly uneventful. I noticed a trail of slime across my bivi bag but as the critter had gone, assumed I had bedded down across a slug’s journey home and he had decided not to divert just for some poxy camper. However, all was not quite right as my mate suddenly exclaimed, What’s that on your forehead!â€ Now, my forehead; flat and warm, a perfect sleeping spot forâ€¦uurrghh! A slug, contentedly snoozing on my head without a care in the world!
The car, anywhere and everywhere
Nothing too imaginative here but a perfect last resort should all other options fail. Everyone’s had to do it once and debates will never end as the best spot in your car; recline the driver’s seat and stay upright, curl across the back seats or lie across the front seats (just mind that gear stick!). Keep a window slightly open or the misted windows might arouse interest from doggers and such likes!
Ray Mears style shelter, Forest of Dean
I am sure a book will one day be written of this epic effort so watch this space. The old Cub Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’ serves well for this. You will need some tools, patience and the ability to pretend building a shelter in the middle of the woods really is a manly thing to do and no, you really wouldn’t just like to put up a tent! Any good shelter must come with a fire and of course, a proper fire isn’t made with a lighter and kindling. Some weird bow and stick thing must be created and hours spent twiddling it between your fingers and watching for the smallest puff of smoke! This was Mark’s speciality and I personally couldn’t wait till we got the pizza on the go. Ah! I’ve let it slip-Sadly, we didn’t climb trees chasing squirrels to fry or hunt wild pigs to roast. You got to one luxury on every wild camp; whether that be a cheese and tomato pizza from Tesco or an iPod, go on treat yourself! You deserve it.